Australia enter historic first equestrian
By International Federation for Intellectual Impairment Sport and Sport Inclusion Australia
Sui Watts has become the first Australian to enter an International Federation for Intellectual Impairment Sport (World Intellectual Impairment Sport) equestrian competition.
The 25-year-old from Taree competed in World Intellectual Impairment Sport’ inaugural para-equestrian competition for riders with an intellectual impairment. The sport was added to the programme in 2016 with dressage as the discipline.
A member of the Manning Valley Dressage and Hacking Club, Watts competes as a para-equestrian Grade 4 rider under her physical disability.
But Watts also has an intellectual impairment which makes her eligible to compete in World Intellectual Impairment Sport competition.
The first World Intellectual Impairment Sport para-equestrian event features an innovative video set-up where riders are filmed performing the required dressage routine at their home venue before submitting it for assessment by international judges.
The 2013 and 2015 Riding for the Disabled Grade 3/4 National champion, Watts completed her test on 6 September at the Taree Showgrounds.
Her parents Paul and Janett Watts were there to support and coach Nell Marshman entered the video through World Intellectual Impairment Sport member Sport Inclusion Australia.
The high cost of transport of horses and quarantine requirements make a live international competition extremely difficult and expensive. Conducting competitions by video enabled organisers to hold the event at a relatively low cost.
The opportinity has been well received with entries from a number of countries.
Watts’ mother Janett spoke of how her daughter was inspired to take-up the sport:
“This opportunity to represent Australia has been 17 years in the making, ever since we took Sui to watch the equestrian events at the Sydney Paralympics, she has dreamed of one day representing Australia.”
Horses have had an enormous impact on Watts’ life. As a child she had issues trusting people but through working with horses, learned how to do so.
Watts’ life today is consumed with horses. Each day she gets up at 5:30am to rug and feed the six horses at the family farm on Mitchell’s Island. Watts trains six days a week including lessons with her coach and when she is not working on the family farm or training, she works at Taree Big W and the local YMCA creche.
On weekends she can be found at the Taree Showgrounds either competing or volunteering at competitions.
As a teenager Watts met five-time Paralympian Jan Pike. A para-equestrian rider who won two medals at the Athens 2004 Paralympics, Pike has taken Watts under her wing as a mentor over the last ten years.
Watts and her horses have travelled extensively on the East Coast of Australia competing in events in South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales including her favourite venue where her dream started: the Sydney International Equestrian Centre. Today Watts rides her favourite mare Springfield Festivity, affectionately known as Reenie.
“It has taken almost two years for Sui and Reenie to form a partnership and now they just keep getting better and better,” Janett said.
In 2012 Sui and her family travelled alongside Marshman to Chinese Taipei for the International Hope Cup, a dressage event for riders with an intellectual and/or physical impairment. The event featured riders from Chinese Taipei, Singapore, Japan and Australia. It was a successful trip for Watts and her borrowed Palimino pony Tom, returning with three medals.
“Riding has given Sui an amazing self esteem and developed her confidence, she loves nothing more than being at a horse event chatting to everyone and showing off her gorgeous girl,” father Paul said.
The International Federation for Intellectual Impairment Sport (World Intellectual Impairment Sport) represents more than 300,000 athletes with intellectual impairments around the world. We give elite athletes the chance to compete at an international level and on the Paralympic stage. But we cannot continue our work towards the inclusion of the world’s biggest impairment group in sport and society without your support.
We are a registered charity and your help can make a big difference.